New York’s seemingly endless hunger for Middle Eastern food keeps growing. And the latest contender in the crowded category comes with hipster bona fides.
DEZ is the new Soho eatery from Samantha Wasser, a founder of vegan powerhouse By Chloe, and Eden Grinshpan, the Israeli-Canadian chef best known for her Cooking Channel shows Eden Eats and Log On and Eat with Eden.
With a tightly focused menu of mezes, salads, bowls, and stuffed pitas, the restaurant’s bringing Instagram-era dazzle to a sometimes staid category. DEZ’s interior pops with bright colors and bold shapes, like black-and-white, triangle-patterned banquettes. Vibrantly hued dishes emerge on bright-white tableware.
Meat’s on the menu this time - think Moroccan lamb meatballs and a shawarma beef burger - along with veg-centric dishes like roasted cauliflower, sumac fattoush (bread salad), and fried egg with labneh in pita.
Spoiled for choice, Middle-Eastern-craving New Yorkers can now choose between Dizengoff (hummus), Miznon (cauliflower), Nur (modern Israeli), Kish-Kash (couscous), Timna (cheffy Mediterranean), and many more.
Like so many restaurant backstories, DEZ’s comes with some drama. As Eater reported, By Chloe co-founder chef Chloe Coscarelli was ousted from her namesake restaurant, then sued ESquared Hospitality - DEZ’s owner - alleging that CEO Jimmy Haber (Wasser’s father) pushed her out after she rejected his advances.
The Forward caught up with the very busy Grinshpan about her first restaurant project.
Do Dez’s recipes draw on personal experience, family meals, travel, or something else?
The menu is inspired by my experiences traveling in Israel and growing up in Toronto, which is such a diverse, multi-cultural city. I’ve always been inspired by Middle Eastern food and I’ve always experimented at home with the signature ingredients of the region.
You’re entering a very crowded category in NYC. Why do you think Middle Eastern food’s so appealing?
It’s so funny, because every time I tell people I’m opening a Middle Eastern restaurant, people say that’s the style food they want to eat most often. It’s so fresh, and light, yet it has so much flavor. It’s nutritious for you too but feels like a treat. Middle Eastern food has complexity without being over the top – it’s fare that our bodies crave.
Was Instagram on your minds when you designed the menu and space? DEZ seems like it was shaped for the phone era.
For designing the menu, absolutely. First and foremost, Sam and I always talked about opening DEZ in a space with natural light. We want to provide a space where people can take beautiful photos of their dining experiences. We also made a point to plate the food in white containers because food looks best on white plates and bowls. And whether it’s for Instagram or not, I love creating dishes with contrasting colors and textures. And the DEZ branding is full of bright colors that really pop.
Are Dez dishes like shakshuka and hummus Israeli-style, more general Middle Eastern, or a purely new take from you?
The hummus that I love is creamy and tahini-forward; the shakshuka is smoky with curry powder, a variety of spices, and harissa. These are classic dishes made with my favorite flavor profiles.
What should a first-time visitor order?
The menu is perfect for sharing, so I would say get a couple of Mezze with the Za’atar & Olive Oil Pita, Jeweled Rice with Baharat Grilled Chicken, and the Seeds & Veg Salad.